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Unlock Better Health: How Much Sleep Do You Really Need?

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Sleep is a vital component of our overall health and daily functioning. It’s the fuel that keeps our bodies and minds operating at their best. But how much sleep do we actually need?

The common notion that eight hours of sleep per night is necessary for everyone is not entirely accurate. In fact, the amount of sleep required varies from person to person. While some may need more than eight hours, others may function well with less.

However, it’s important to note that insufficient sleep can have negative impacts on our health. A recent study presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session revealed that getting less than seven hours of sleep per night is linked to a 7% increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Moreover, sleeping less than five hours a night is associated with an 11% higher risk.

“Most people need between seven and nine… That’s where it comes from,” says Shelby Harris, Psy. D., a clinical psychologist specializing in sleep medicine and the director of sleep health at Sleepopolis. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) also recommends that healthy adults should sleep at least seven hours a night on a regular basis for optimal health.

Dr. Molly Atwood, Ph. D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine, explains that a person’s sleep need is the number of hours they would sleep naturally — without external constraints or alarms — in order to wake up feeling rested and function the next day.

The distribution of sleep needs among adults resembles a bell-shaped curve, with the majority of people requiring between seven to nine hours. However, there are outliers on either side of the median. Dr. Atwood states, “Some people only need six and a half hours of sleep every night, whereas others may need more than nine hours to feel rested and function the next day.”

There are even some individuals who can function normally with just four hours of sleep per night due to a rare genetic mutation. However, these “short-sleepers” represent a tiny fraction of the population.

For the rest of us, regularly sleeping less than seven hours a night can lead to adverse health outcomes, warns the AASM. “When you go below six or seven hours of sleep, you start seeing a stronger association between sleep and health problems or death,” says Dr. Atwood. The risk increases the further you go below seven hours on a regular basis.

Quality of sleep and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule are also crucial. Dr. Andrew Varga, a neuroscientist and physician at the Mount Sinai Integrative Sleep Center, explains that during sleep, the body cycles through four different stages, broken down into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and non-REM sleep. Most people go through three to five cycles a night, with the duration of REM sleep getting longer each subsequent cycle later in the night. This is referred to as the body’s “sleep architecture.”

Disruptions or abnormalities in sleep architecture can lead to poor sleep quality and, over time, sleep deprivation. Factors such as sleep disorders like insomnia or sleep apnea, stress, and underlying health conditions can all affect sleep quality.

Occasional sleepless nights are common and usually manageable by catching up on sleep over the next few days. However, chronic sleep deprivation can have serious consequences.

In the short-term, lack of sleep can cause cognitive deficits, such as delayed reaction time, poorer working memory, and difficulty paying attention or completing tasks. Mood can also be affected, with individuals feeling more irritable or down after a night of insufficient sleep.

Long-term, chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Studies have also shown that people who habitually sleep less than six hours a night have a higher incidence of high blood pressure, kidney disease, and diabetes. It can also impact the immune system and affect metabolic functioning.

Dr. Atwood adds, “There’s more and more data coming out that it can increase your risk of cognitive issues as you get older, such as dementia.” Chronic sleep deprivation is also linked to an increased risk of mental health problems including depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety.

The amount of sleep a person needs changes throughout different stages of life, and will vary slightly depending on the individual and their health, behavior, and environment. The AASM recommends the following sleep durations for different age groups:

* Infants (4 to 12 months) need 12 to 16 hours, including naps
* Children (1 to 2 years) need 11 to 14 hours, including naps
* Children (3 to 5 years) need 10 to 13 hours, including naps
* Children (6 to 12 years) need 9 to 12 hours
* Teenagers (13 to 18 years) need 8 to 10 hours
* Adults need 7 or more hours

You know you’re getting enough sleep if you wake up feeling refreshed and can function throughout the day without feeling an overwhelming need to sleep. If you’re getting the recommended amount of sleep but still feel tired, this could be a sign of poor sleep quality. Signs of poor sleep quality include waking up throughout the night, snoring, and nighttime breathing difficulties.

Getting enough sleep every night can be a challenge due to various factors such as work obligations, school, parenting, lifestyle choices, and poor sleep hygiene. In fact, one-third of adults in the United States report that they usually get less than the recommended amount of sleep.

If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, experts recommend avoiding screens for 30 minutes to one hour before bedtime and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. If you’re still having trouble, it may be beneficial to consult a doctor or a sleep medicine expert.

Let us know what you think, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Ess

    April 16, 2024 at 11:19 am

    Nothing is said about how napping during the day contributes to overall sleep requirements.

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Sleep Soundly with These 11 Expert-Approved Bedtime Routines

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As we age, the quality of sleep tends to decrease. However, proper sleep is essential for maintaining good health and retaining mental sharpness. With a few adjustments to your nightly routine, you can significantly improve the quality of your sleep. Here are eleven bedtime routines that will help you attain a good night’s rest.

Foremost, establishing a consistent sleep schedule is crucial. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends, helps regulate your internal clock and enhance sleep quality. This routine will gradually make your body recognize when it’s time to sleep or wake up.

To create an environment conducive to sleep, keep your room dark, quiet, and cool. Light suppresses the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that controls sleep. Additionally, noise can be a significant sleep disruptor, and a cooler temperature in the room can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep.

Another good practice is avoiding meals, caffeine, and alcohol close to bedtime. Late-night meals can cause indigestion that interferes with your sleep, while caffeine and alcohol can have a stimulating effect, hindering your ability to fall asleep. Instead, try a calming drink like chamomile tea before bed.

“Physical activity is often associated with better sleep. Exercise can reduce insomnia by decreasing arousal, anxiety and depressive symptoms,” advises the Sleep Research Society. Incorporating regular physical activity into your day can significantly improve sleep quality. However, it’s vital to finish exercising at least three hours before bed as this can interfere with your rest.

Adopting relaxation techniques such as yoga, reading, or listening to calm music can help prepare your mind for sleep. If stress or worry keeps you awake, consider writing in a journal or practicing mindfulness meditation. These methods promote relaxation and can make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The Sleep Health Foundation suggests “using bedroom only for sleep and sex instead of work or recreation. This will strengthen the association between bed and sleep.” By creating this mental association, you’re teaching your body to recognize your bed as a place for sleep rather than activity.

Avoiding bright screens within two hours of your bedtime is also beneficial. The bright light emitted by phones, tablets, computers, and TVs is particularly disruptive. If you must use these devices, consider wearing glasses that block blue light or using an app that reduces the amount of blue light emitted.

Refraining from irregular or long daytime naps can help maintain a healthy sleep pattern. While short power naps can be beneficial, long or irregular napping can negatively affect your sleep.

Another significant factor is managing your fluid intake. Drinking enough liquids to stay hydrated is important, but too much can have you waking up for bathroom breaks. Try to balance your fluid intake to avoid disrupting your sleep.

The Sleep Foundation also emphasizes that your mattress, pillows, and blankets can greatly affect sleep quality. “Ensure that your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable. A bed that is too soft or too hard can significantly affect how deeply you sleep and how rested you feel in the morning.” Therefore, make sure your bedding is comfortable and supportive for a good night’s sleep.

Lastly, if you’ve been lying awake for more than 20 minutes, it might be helpful to get out of bed. Staying in bed when you’re actively frustrated can create an unhealthy link between your sleeping environment and wakefulness.

By integrating these practices into your bedtime routine, you can indeed improve your sleep quality and overall health. After all, a good night’s sleep isn’t just a luxury – it’s a necessity.

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Unlock the Secrets of Super-Agers: Key Habits That Keep Their Memories Sharp at 80

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The gradual deterioration of memory is often considered an inevitable aspect of aging. Misplacing keys, forgetting appointments, struggling with names – these are all too familiar scenarios for many. However, there is a group of seniors who astonishingly defy this norm. Known as “super-agers,” these are individuals in their 80s who retain a memory capacity akin to those three decades younger. Recent studies have begun to uncover some intriguing similarities among them.

The cutting-edge findings were part of two separate studies published in The Journal of Neuroscience and Lancet Healthy Longevity. A total of 119 participants over 79.5 years old, all hailing from Spain, were examined. Among them, 55 were typical older adults, contrasted against 64 classified as “super-agers,” defined as those possessing a memory ability that mirrors people 30 years their junior.

To determine the distinction, subjects underwent a series of tests, including three non-memory tests and one memory test (the Free and Cued Selective Reminding Test). Super-agers were identified by scoring above the average of 50- to 56-year-olds on the memory test and at or near the average of their age group for the non-memory tests.

Interestingly, the brain structure of super-agers showed some unique characteristics. They exhibited less brain atrophy, particularly in areas associated with memory, such as the hippocampus. Furthermore, MRI scans revealed they had superior quality white matter in the brain’s frontal part, contributing to better cognition.

It’s essential to note that these super-agers and ordinary adults showed no differences in their genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. According to Bryan Strange, the lead author of the study and professor of clinical neuroscience at the Polytechnic University of Madrid, this reveals “a resistance to age-related decline,” given that both groups had low Alzheimer’s markers but significant cognitive and brain differences.

Super-agers remain a scientific curiosity, with experts unsure about their prevalence. Emily Rogalski, a professor of neurology at the University of Chicago, acknowledges that they are “relatively rare.” Tessa Harrison, an assistant project scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, posits that these top-tier agers might have some sort of predisposition or unrecognized brain resistance mechanism.

Surprisingly, the lifestyles of super-agers and typical older adults do not differ significantly – their diet, sleep habits, professional history, alcohol and tobacco consumption are quite comparable. However, super-agers are distinguished by better mental health and a faster pace than the average older adult. Although they reportedly exercise as often as their peers, researchers suggest super-agers might be more involved in “non-exercise physical activity,” such as gardening or stair-climbing.

While there are inconsistencies within the super-ager group, such as variations in exercise, diet, and smoking habits, one universally shared trait is their strong social relationships.

As we strive to follow in the footsteps of these super-agers, experts recommend a well-rounded approach to brain health. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, and an active social life are among the key factors. However, as always, any health-related concerns or questions should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

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104-Year-Old Credits Longevity to Daily Wine and Daring Spirit

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The secret to a long life can differ greatly depending on who you ask. However, it’s probably wise to take advice from those who have lived past 100 years of age. Centenarians and supercentenarians often share their secrets to longevity, attributing their long lives to various lifestyle choices or dietary habits. One such individual is 104-year-old Evelyn Eales, who recently revealed her daily beverage of choice that she believes contributes to her longevity.

Eales celebrated her 104th birthday on Leap Day, February 29, in an interview with ABC-affiliate 40/29 News. Although technically her 26th Leap Year birthday, she credits her youthful spirit to a few lifestyle choices and a particular favorite wine.

“Well, I’ve been widowed for 40 years, and I don’t have any children,” Eales said. “And I drink wine every day—Franzia Chillable Red.”

Eales, known for her sense of humor, jokingly expressed her hope that Franzia would “send me a carton of wine.” While the idea of daily wine consumption may be met with varying opinions, it’s a habit that won’t necessarily break the bank. A 3-liter box of Franzia Chillable Red typically costs between $11 and $15, while a 5-liter box is usually priced between $18 and $26.

Eales isn’t alone in her belief in the benefits of wine. Edith “Edie” Ceccarelli, who was once America’s oldest-known person until her passing at age 116, also enjoyed wine regularly.

“When questioned about her secrets, she told others they should, “Have a couple of fingers of red wine with your dinner, and mind your own business,” according to The New York Times.

While the health benefits of red wine have been questioned, and studies on alcohol and longevity have reached varying conclusions, both Ceccarelli and Eales attribute their long lives to their wine-drinking habits.

In addition to her daily wine, Eales also believes that enjoying life is a crucial part of longevity.

“Enjoy it when you have it,” she told 40/29 News. “I don’t know, I just don’t regret anything I ever did, regardless of what it was.”

She added, “Live for the moment,” with a chuckle.

Eales’ great-niece, Teresa Crupper, believes there’s more to her aunt’s longevity.

“She’s an amazing lady. She has a Facebook, she does Sudoku, crossword puzzles, she reads avidly—just very active,” Crupper said.

Eales, who has lived in Bella Vista, Arkansas since 1989, celebrated her 104th birthday with a motorcycle ride, a wish she had harbored for years.

“I’ve wanted to go on this ride for 104 years,” she said, adding that she wasn’t sure why she had this specific birthday wish. “I guess I’m just a daredevil.”

The Summer Fun Run Motorcycle Club granted her wish, taking her on a 10-minute ride through Bella Vista. Eales hopes that for her 105th birthday, another motorcycle-themed celebration will be in store.

“Any time the fellas are ready, I am,” she joked.

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